Harare, May 5, 2014 – Tendai Biti has suffered another blow to his campaign, with a poor turnout on Saturday at a Manicaland rally confirming the scant support suggested by his rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
But the Biti camp insisted that Saturday’s meeting was an internal consultation with structures not a rally.
However, pictures released to the Daily News, showed that the meeting was attended by some elderly people who are not in party structures.
Tsvangirai said last week that Biti had no social base.
Meanwhile, thousands of supporters attended Tsvangirai’s rally in the capital, Harare Sunday.
While Biti did his part in Manicaland on Saturday, his supporters failed to do theirs.
Despite heated contests to fill the top district jobs in the breakaway MDC, supporters were missing in action.
Officials said repeated appeals for organisers to ferry more supporters to the Manicaland meeting failed to boost the audience, although Biti arrived hours later than scheduled to address them.
Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said they had expected a bigger turnout, and accused the organisers of failing to do a good job.
In his speech, Biti repeated the familiar themes of his campaign of recent days, that Tsvangirai and his cohorts were expelled and had no locus standi to recall anyone from Parliament.
Tsvangirai — who has a strong base of supporters and the ability to bring out his supporters — was a beneficiary of Biti’s low turnout as he addressed a bumper crowd in Epworth yesterday, dwarfing the numbers at his nemesis’s rally.
Jacob Mafume, the Biti faction spokesperson, said they were meeting structures from selected districts and provinces.
“It went on well. We will be doing rallies eventually and they will be public,” Mafume told the Daily News
“It was one among many. It was one that TB (Tendai Biti) visited. We need a different approach to rally tourism. Once that’s done, we move to the next step.”
Mafume said they were holding meetings countrywide and yesterday faction leaders met structures in Chinhoyi and Matabeleland South.
“We are basically having conversations with structures about what has happened, get their feedback to allay their fears about the reported recall of MPs,” Mafume said.
He said the ongoing consultations were not rallies, and alleged that the Tsvangirai faction had misled the people that it was a rally and claimed it was an “agenda setting for the media.”
“There was no rally, rallies are announced in advance,” Mafume told the Daily News. “You can’t grow a rally like a mushroom. Everyone knows how rallies are convened, you book permission with the police, you advertise the rally. People forget the purpose of rally, which is to rally, to deal with major issues. What we are doing now is to meet our structures.”
Mafume said they were explaining to people about the dispute.
“You can’t call rallies for praise and worship of political leaders,” he said. “You can’t run a party like an evangelical crusade. Some of these people have already intimated that Tsvangirai is a son of God. We are explaining to people patiently. There are economic hardships. People want conversations with leaders.”